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The Stars Align for Synth-Pop Phenoms Moon Kissed

Moon Kissed is a vibrant, promising NYC-based synth-pop trio. The cheerful youth-drunk band has produced an impressive set of catchy, memorable songs and a charged boundary-pushing performance that is energetic as well as daring. The group is known to perform their synth-ladened poppy licks with the occasional appearance of crowd-rousing punky riffs topless in an unheeding and defiant “fuck you!” to, well, who cares. Just, fuck you.

Moon Kissed posing at the City Reliquary in Brooklyn NY
Moon Kissed posing at the City Reliquary in Brooklyn NY | Photo Credit: David J. Rubin

The Craft

Being a fan is easy. We listen. We like. We become fans. Our job is done. (Phew! That was tough.)

What most music fans don't fully appreciate though is how difficult it is to craft music that can take someone by their collar and hold them there, let alone make them feel something, despite everything else in the world vying for their attention.

Moon Kissed, however, is creating music that is doing just that with an extraordinary ability to strike all the right chords, check all the right boxes, and make it all look fun as hell. The exciting music combined with an electrifying and unconventional performance that challenges erroneous societal lines are sending a signal - there's something special happening here and you should pay attention.


Kaya of Moon Kissed looks out onto the dance floor
Khaya, lead singer of Moon Kissed | Photo Credit: Kathryn Whitehead Photography

Khaya’s vocals are strong and fit beautifully within a contemporary pop framework, slipping effortlessly from a velvety forward mid-range to a sparkling wispy falsetto to create some tantalizing moments such as in “Strange Satisfaction” and “Bender”. But right as your ear thinks it has her pegged, Khaya surprises as she goes from percussive, poppy vocals to a downright soulful vibrato that’s rich and alluring.

The New York native is more than a great vocalist and writer. A graduate of NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, Khaya plays a major

collaborative role in producing and crafting the sound of Moon Kissed.

This stripped-down acoustic performance of their song “Last Time”, featuring Emily on the vibraphone and Leah on the conga, is an enchanting display of the band’s command of feeling in music and Khaya’s vocals as an instrument.

Khaya aside there are two other boxes to check to take this band from something really good to something really good and relevant -- Emily on synth and Leah on drums.


Emily playing the synth at a show in The City Reliquary in Brooklyn New York
Emily, keys and synth for Moon Kissed | Photo Credit: David J. Rubin

Emily’s contribution on the synth can’t be understated as she takes on delivering an overall sound that can be subtle and intimate, to richly layered atmospheric nods to psychedelia, to dancehall anthems, to big arena-rumbling rock riffs.

Absent a guitar and bass player for their performances, Emily - keys in one hand and mallets

in the other (that’s right, mallets) - evokes the band's power to captivate fans and show-goers alike.


Moon  Kissed drummer, Leah,  smiles on stage.
Leah smiles | Photo Credit: Kathryn Whitehead Photography

There’s no mistake about it, Moon Kissed wants you to move and dance to their music. Leah on drums gets much of the credit for doing just that with sharp cheerful dance floor rhythms. Leah’s versatility, however, shows on tracks like “Bubblegum” and “Panic Mania” where they go from making you dance to making you put up the horns and then proceed to rock the fuck out. The passionate drummer is also so damn fun to watch! Leah’s stage presence sums up the essence of the band as the ear-to-ear smile they don while playing lights up the stage and in no small way lends themself to the band's infectious energy.

The Songs

Though the three have collaborated to create a solid repertoire of really great songs like “Muscle Memory”, “Last Time”, “Strange Satisfaction”, and “Shake” (I could literally go on here), "Bender" - due to be released on the new album, I’d Like To Tell You Something Important - shines as a noteworthy example of what the band is capable of.

Moonkissed poses
Khaya sings to an enchanted crowd | Photo Credit: David J. Rubin

"Bender" is a soaring triumph of a song with an addictive and mesmerizing emotional hook for a chorus and pleading lyrics built on a slow-burning verse that swells onto Emily’s brilliant use of an atmospheric ascending progression on synth. Leah breaks in on the bridge with an alternating crack of their snare and popping rimshots. When their hi-hat opens up and their cymbal begins to splash rhythmically a launch sequence begins and the three take the song to new heights with a passionate crescendo as Khaya's vocals go from pleading and vulnerable to powerful and soulful.

When I first saw a live performance of it on YouTube, I stopped what I was doing, eyed my screen, leaned into the speakers, and didn’t move a muscle until it was over. Then I played it again at least 10 more times.

See the live performance below.

Moon Kissed on a Moon Shot

Assembling sound that penetrates people, makes them move, forget, smile, or feel empowered is incredibly hard to do. In the same way, writing lyrics that stay with people, crafting melodic hooks that make fans crave more, is an elusive thing to achieve - and even more so to do it all consistently over a span of several songs and albums.

The term “one-hit wonder" is a thing because some bands only achieve time. One song. That’s it.

Countless bands are technically near perfect with superhuman vocals and impossible playing prowess but lack a musical instinct to connect with listeners. This is what 90% of radio is - good and totally forgettable, absent the elusive “it” factor.

The band’s publicists, seasoned industry veterans Ken Weinstein, formerly of Atlantic Records, and Jim Merlis, formerly of Columbia Records, who also have The Strokes, The Killers, and George Harrison for Clients, call “it” an “otherness”.

Moon Kissed at a Brooklyn show
Synth-pop band, Moon Kissed | Photo Credit: David J. Rubin

Though very early in their career, it’s this “otherness” that Moon Kissed seems to possess, an uncanny instinct to compose sound and write lyrics that move people in a way that can be fun and energizing ("Saturday Night", "Bubble Gum"), as well as raw and familiar in a deeply personal sense ("Last Time", "Bender").

The stars are aligning for a musical moon shot for Khaya, Emily, and Leah. What they can do on track and on stage is bewitching a growing and enthusiastic fan base. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see the band taking the stage on the Late Night shows within a year or two.

I’d Like To Tell You Something Important

As the band is furiously touring the country, we’re excited to pick up the band’s new album, I’d Like To Tell You Something Important, out on October the 22nd. You can do the same here.

You can also check for show dates near you here. If you'd like to get on the waiting list for their sold-out album release show on the 22nd you can do that here. If you do happen to get in prepare yourself for a hell of a ball as the event will be a masquerade-style party complete with flashy tuxedos and dreamy gowns.

After October the 22nd Moon Kissed will be hitting the road again to promote the latest album. See the dates below. And make sure to follow these hit-makers on Instagram to stay up to speed on showtimes and dates near you!

Special thanks to David J. Rubin and Kathryn Whitehead Photography for the amazing still-shots featured in this article.



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